Friday, 10 May 2019

A Friday Update

It's been a wonderfully warm week; temperatures in the low 20's (Celsius that is.. 70's if you still use Fahrenheit). I did a bit of work this morning, dropped off our recycling bottles. That paid for my haircut and a coffee and bagel for Jo and I. It's a bit warm to want to do much else... my excuse anyway. So we watched Deadline: White House this afternoon and are now setting up for our evening's viewing.

I finished my 3rd book of May this morning and started a new one that I think will be somewhat challenging. I also received a new book in the mail yesterday. I'll finish off today's entry with my ongoing look at the Mystery Genre.

New Books

1. Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson (1997). I've enjoyed a few of Atkinson's books, both her Jackson Brodie series and her standalones. This is her second novel.

"Once it had been the great forest of Lythe--a vast and impenetrable thicket of green with a mystery in the very heart of the trees.  And here, in the beginning, lived the Fairfaxes, grandly, at Fairfax Manor, visited once by the great Gloriana herself.

But over the centuries the forest had been destroyed, replaced by Streets of Trees.  The Fairfaxes had dwindled too; now they lived in 'Arden' at the end of Hawthorne Close and were hardly a family at all.

There was Vinny (the Aunt from Hell)--with her cats and her crab-apple face. And Gordon, who had forgotten them for seven years and, when he remembered, came back with fat Debbie, who shared her one brain cell with a poodle. And then there were Charles and Isobel, the children. Charles, the acne-scarred Lost Boy, passed his life awaiting visits from aliens and the return of his mother. But it is Isobel to whom the story belongs--Isobel, born on the Streets of Trees, who drops into pockets of time and out again. Isobel is sixteen and she too is waiting for the return of her mother--the thin, dangerous Eliza with her scent of nicotine, Arpege and sex, whose disappearance is part of the mystery that still remains at the heart of the forest."

Just Finished

1. Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs (Temperance Brennan #8).

"Cross Bones is the 8th book in Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan forensic mystery series. I found it to be one of the more interesting ones so far.

Temperance is working at her 2nd job as forensic anthropologist assisting the Montreal coroner. (For those not familiar with the books, Temperance works in South Carolina most of the time, but spends time also in Montreal as part of an arrangement.) This story starts off with Temperance assisting with two bodies, one who is found in a chimney and another who may have committed suicide. His autopsy is witnessed by members of the Jewish community as well. During this autopsy, Tempe is given a photo of a skeleton and is advised that is the reason for the victim's 'murder'.

Thus starts an adventure that will take Tempe and her lover, police detective Andrew Ryan to Israel in search of further evidence and also to discover if the bones might be those of Jesus Christ. It's an intriguing story; a murder mystery and an investigation into the history of Jesus' family. The story moves along very nicely and provides an interesting history of the archeological digs in Israel as well as a nice glimpse of the country itself.

I did find some of it confusing, especially the story (which is based on a true one) of the discoveries in Masada. As well, the possible implications of discovering the body of JC, if it turns out to be the case in this story, and its impact on Christianity, Judaism and even Islam are examined, sometimes a bit too much. There is lots of action and the interactions between Tempe and Ryan are excellent. All in all it was a fascinating mystery and a joy to read. I have found that sometimes Kathy Reichs seems to be going through the motions, but not in this story. (4 stars)"

Just Started

1. Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (Penn Cate #4). I've started this already. I think it's going to be a heavy, dark read. Time will tell.

"Raised in Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor has been accused of murdering the African-American nurse with whom he worked in the 1960s. Now Penn is determined to save his father no matter the cost.

The quest for answers sends Penn deep into a dark conspiracy involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the state's most powerful men. With the aid of a local reporter and his fiancée, Penn uncovers a bloody trail stretching back forty years, and is forced to confront a wrenching dilemma: does a man of honor choose his father or justice?

Rich in Southern atmosphere, Natchez Burning marks the return of an American master of suspense. Tense and disturbing, it's the most explosive and ambitious story Greg Iles has ever written."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American PI's #19
In my last entry I looked at Dana Stabenow's Alaskan PI Kate Shugak.

Rex Stout
1. Rex Stout - Nero Wolfe. Mystery writer Stout lived from 1886 - 1975. He was born in Indiana and died in Connecticut. Between 1934 - 1975 he wrote 33 novels and 39 novellas. He is most well-known for his Nero Wolfe mysteries. I've read two of the Nero Wolfe books so far. There are still a few left and I've a bunch on my book shelves.

a. The League of Frightened Men (Nero Wolfe #2).

"Rex Stout is another of those authors that I have come to late in my reading life. My first experience was with one of his last books, a short story collection, Death Times Three, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I've been trying to find his first book, Fer de Lance (1934) but so far with no luck. But I did find this book, The League of Frightened Men, his second book, originally published in 1935.

From being someone who enjoyed my first experience of the great detective, Nero Wolfe, I now find my self an unabashed fan. This book was excellent, a fascinating, entertaining, great mystery. Nero Wolfe and his partner, Archie Goodwin are a great team and both interesting in their own rights. Wolfe is an oversize detective, basically housebound, whose life, while he works to solve mysteries, is quite regimented. Each morning and each afternoon, he works upstairs in his home, tending his multitude of orchids. While he can be visited, no business is conducted. He settles the remainder of his day, in his office, tending to business.

Archie is his eyes, ears, arms and legs. Archie conducts the investigations, travels around New York and local environs, interviewing, gathering information. He can be Wolfe's strong arm man if necessary. The stories are told in Archie's voice, from his perspective. (Oddly enough, Wolfe does sometime leave his home, this I discovered in this story. But this seems to be a rarety, not the norm)

So this story; a group of men, Harvard classmates have a secret past. While in university, they hazed another classmate and as a result caused him to have severe injuries. Out of guilt, they have banded together to pay medical bills, etc. Now two have died, or maybe been murdered. They think that Paul Chapin is involved and that he plans to kill them all. Wolfe is hired and so the story begins.

I enjoyed so much how the story is presented; small details like how Wolfe decides how to bill each of the different members of the group, and so many other aspects. The story has a surprising menace throughout and the case is so very interesting (even when Archie and Wolfe seem to be grinding their heels trying to get information.) I love Archie's manner of presenting the case, his thoughts on Wolfe; a combination of affection and anger. Great story and now I will have to read the whole series. An excellent story and mystery. Can you figure out the ending? (5 stars!)"


2. Death Times Three (1985).

"Even though this was the last published book of Rex Stout's work, featuring Nero Wolfe, it was still my introduction to the famed detective. Death Times Three features three short stories/ novellas; Bitter End, Frame-up for Murder and Assault on a Brownstone. I didn't really have any sort of clue about Nero Wolfe and was interested to find out more about him and his assistant Archie Goodwin, who is, in effect, Wolfe's arms and legs. Wolfe never leaves his brownstone in New York and uses the investigations conducted by Archie to analyze and solve the cases brought his way. Wolfe is a curmudgeon, doesn't like his routine upset (breakfast, morning with his orchids, office work in the afternoon, then more work with his orchids, etc). He doesn't like women clients for some reason (maybe I'll find out more as I further explore his other cases), doesn't really need the work, but seems to take them on when his routine is disrupted or his character is called into question (at least in the three cases in this book.) They were nicely varied; an invasion by Treasury officials in the last, a case involving quinine in Wolfe's pate and the murder of a fashion designer. I enjoyed the cases, the dynamic between Archie and Wolfe and the interruptions by Inspector Cramer and how Wolfe works the information to solve the cases. Enjoyable reading and I'm looking forward to finding out more about this detective. (4 stars)"

3. Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolfe #1).

"As any herpetologist will tell you, the fer-de-lance is among the most dreaded snakes known to man. When someone makes a present of one to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin knows he's getting dreadfully close to solving the devilishly clever murders of an immigrant and a college president. As for Wolfe, he's playing snake charmer in a case with more twists than an anaconda -- whistling a seductive tune he hopes will catch a killer who's still got poison in his heart."

4. The Rubber Band (Nero Wolfe #3).

"What do a Wild West lynching and a respected English nobleman have in common? On the surface, absolutely nothing. But when a young woman hires his services, it becomes Nero Wolfe’s job to look deeper and find the connection. A forty-year-old pact, a five-thousand-mile search, and a million-dollar murder are all linked to an international scandal that could rebound on the great detective and his partner, Archie, with fatal abruptness."

The remaining Nero Wolfe mysteries can be found at this link

There you go. One more entry in this category, then it'll be on to the next one; Mysteries with American Cops.

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